In Search of Horse Tail – Yosemite NP

This trip was my “firsts” in many ways. First trip to Sierras in the west, first photographic workshop spanning 3-4 days, and first time venturing into the domain of landscape photography in a dedicated way – might I dare say in a contemplative way. It was a thrilling experience with Gary Hart and Doug Otto. Gary, who led the workshop knows Yosemite extremely well. And his photography skills in Yosemite could only be matched with his friendly and patient demeanor which made my first experience with him truly a memorable one. Not to forget all the lovely people I could spend the days with.

My trip began with exactly “not doing” things that all books and wise people recommend. While I had my basic camera gear, once I reached there I realized that I had some other basic stuff missing like – how to protect myself and my gear from rain. Also, I did not do any research on the park or the place. My knowledge of the place was literally limited to the few pictures of Ansel Adams I have admired. But that did not take away from my thrill – automatically it lit up the curiosity of a child in me that many photographers (like Eddie Soloway) would say needs to be generated to cultivate the art of seeing in photography.

So with this curiosity I quickly learned within the first few hours that one of the prized pictures from Yosemite in winter is that of the Horse Tail. Gary has his own prize which seems unreal until I learned the history how photographers in Yosemite have spent countless hours to capture that light since Galen Rowell popularized it 1970s. I was also pleasantly surprised that it happens only in the period we were there. What can strange luck ask for – being in the right place at the right time!

We ended up not having the full red fire on the Horse Tail. But there was some glow and I was quite pleased with that. The weather was spectacular for photography, which was learning for me as well – blue sky days are not really my friend. Clearing storms, streaming magic light through the clouds, controlling exposure and reading light, playing with composition, contemplating over what I saw to make a composition, and getting comfortable with the digital workflow (although I had a bunch of really cool B&W medium format, which I might scan and post later) were just a few of the take-aways.

More than anything else, the biggest take-away was this. I have been struggling to figure out what should I photograph more – how do I take the path to get and develop a voice of my own – how do I see the world and map into a two-dimensional picture – how do I pre-visualize. And I could not figure out a pathway towards getting anywhere. I feel that I have got some direction on that. All these apply to streets as wells as in nature photography. And that is the biggest joy which lives with me as I look forward to my next workshop. Who knows when I can make that happen! But I can’t wait too long.